The Glorious Month of Damodar

BY: SUN STAFF - 31.10 2023

Mother Yasoda Binds Damodar with a Roap

October 29th marks the start of the period of Damodara, the fourth month of Caturmasya. As we have traditionally done here at the Sampradaya Sun, we will present in nine parts the Sri Sri Damodarastakam: Eight Prayers to Lord Damodara Whose Belly is Bound by a Rope. We begin with an introduction by HH Bhakti-Prajnana Kesava Maharaja, followed each day by one verse from Sri Sri Damodarastakam, with the Sanskrit commentary of Srila Sanatana Goswami, Dig-Darsini-tika.

For the remainder of the month, we will feature many other glorifications of Sri Damodara and Kartika-vrata. During this period, the devotees observe fasting from urad dahl, and many will perform austerities by chanting extra rounds, eating more frugally, and generally increasing the level of their devotional activity as much as possible.

Each day during the period of Damodara, devotees will offer lighted lamps and chant the Damodarastakam to Lord Damodara, both morning and evening, to obtain His special mercy. To glorify the Lord congregationally at the temple in the association of the Vaisnavas is most purifying. Many devotees go on pilgrimage to Vrindavan during Damodhara to perform their vrata in the Holy Dhama. For those unable to go to Vrindavan, Srila Prabhupada's program of temple worship is non-different.

One or Two Topics about Sri Sri Damodarastaka

Sri Krsna-candra, Who is achintyananta-saktiman bhagavan - the Supreme Personality of Godhead and potent source of inconceivably limitless energies - allowed Mata Yasoda to bind Him with ropes to a wooden grinding mortar. By this pastime, He fully tasted the essence of her visuddha-vatsalya-prema-rasa, the totally pure spiritual mellows of her parental love. He also thereby revealed to the world the highest characteristics of His quality of bhaktadhinata, or willingness to subject Himself to the dominance of the devotee. This supremely enchanting dama-bandhana-lila was manifested on the day of Karttika-sukla pratipada - the day after the dark moon day in the month of Karttika. This is also the primary reason for the perfectly glorious month of Karttika becoming famous by the name of Damodara. Acharyapada Sri Gopala Bhatta Gosvami, the author of the Vaisnava smrti-sastra names Sri Hari-bhakti-vilasa, has outlined the devotional activities to be carried out during the month of Karttika. He indicates that the rule to be followed every day is the worship of Sri Sri Radha-Damodara and the recitation of the stotra named Sri Damodarastaka, thus (H.b.v. 16.95-96):

"O learned Vipras! If one worships the deity of Sri Radhika during the month of Karttika for the purpose of Her pleasure, then Damodara Hari becomes very satisfied. One who worships Lord Damodara by daily reciting the prayer known as Damodarastaka, which was spoken by the sage Satyavrata, verily attracts Damodara Himself."

This stotra names Sri Damodarastaka is found in the Padma-purana, being spoken by Sri Satyavrata Muni during a conversation with Sri Narada, Saunaka and other sages. Srila Sanatana Gosvamipada states in his commentary on this prayer that it is nitya-siddha (an eternally perfect prayer) that it was manifested through Sri Satyavrata Muni, and that it is actually capable of attracting Sri Damodara-Krsna. He has fully elaborated on this prayer's ability to attract Lord Damodara in his exhaustive purports, which are abounding with his own personal realisations.

For a long time, I have been contemplating a desire to publish this exposition of Damodarastaka. Especially, since upon the observance of the Damodara-vrata every year during the month of Karttika, all of us get together and sing the kirtana of Damodarastaka with united voices, at such time, this prayer is manifest in all the devotees' hearts, thereby stimulating the arising of strong desires for explanation of the verses. Many bhakta-sadhakas have specifically requested me to translate this information for them. Finally, after so many days we have published the eight Sanskrit mula-slokas of Damodarastaka along with a Sanskrit anvaya (word for word synonyms), and Srila Sanatana Gosvamipada's Sanskrit tika named Dig-Darsini. For the benefit of readers who do not know Sanskrit, we have also included Bengali translations of the mula-slokas and Srila Sanatana Gosvami's commentary.

In the present age many so-called intellectuals, who are provoked and irritated by Kali-yuga's degradation, cast an extremely contemptuous glance upon the usage of the Sanskrit language. In spite of this, I have still published this book on Damodarastaka out of a desire for the benefit of people living in all lands. It is good if the literary scholars of the Bengali language would keep in mind that, above all else, our development of Bengali is wholly dependent on its derivation from the Sanskrit language. It is inevitable that the advancement of Bengali proceeds side-by-side with the advancement of Sanskrit literatures. Those who attempt to develop Bengali by jumping over Sanskrit literatures end up thoroughly steeped in gross error. We have taken note of the language produced by scholars of this type - it is disorderly and haphazard in all ways. Bengali is always subordinate to and dependent on Sanskrit; namely, it is not that Bengali is an independent language and Sanskrit is completely different. The fact is that Bengali is paratantra (totally dependent) and Sanskrit is svatantra (totally independent). Keeping this precept in mind, we have placed this book before the assembly of learned sages.

This astaka written by Srila Vyasadeva is an ideal specimen amongst the world of literature due to its philosophical conclusions, its expertise of composition, and its astonishing excellence in revealing the essence of the Lord's lila. By composing his tika named Dig-Darsini with such clear and elaborate details, Jagad-guru Srila Sanatana Gosvamipada has fully explained the comparative differences of various mellows within the kingdom of sadhana. By that he has proven in all respects the superiority of the vatsalya-rasa and madhura-rasa.

Sahajiyas Unfit to Taste Rasa-lila

Regarding the impropriety of discussing Sri Sri Radha-Krsna's rasa-lila indiscriminately here and there, in this way or that, as practiced by the prakrta-sahajiyas - Gosvamipada has discreetly stated the following at the end of his eight purport:

"And finally, at the conclusion of the prayer, the author desires to describe the supreme superexcellence of the rasa-lila and other transcendental pastimes that Lord Sri Krsna performs with Sri Radhika, but since these are the topmost of confidential topics, they are not mentioned directly. The logic of madhurena-samapayet - 'all undertakings should be completed sweetly' - applies here. Therefore such confidential pastimes are referred to by a mere hint only, as they are offered obeisances in the words namo nanta-lilaya (my obeisances unto Your limitless pastimes)."

Because the sahajiyas are unfit to taste the rasa-lila, it is not possible to count them amongst the exalted worthy devotees. All we know is - bhakti is transcendental to the three worlds. It cannot be brought into the realm of analysis or discussion that is confirmed to the three worlds. They think that matter can somehow become cit (spiritually conscious), and that by the power of one's sadhana it is possible to see Bhagavan with one's physical eyes -this is the opinion of the prakrta-sahajiyas. They say that just as bell-metal turns into gold when mercury is added to it, similarly the material body (prakrta) becomes transcendental (aprakrta) by the power of performing bhajana. They say that at such a time, one obtains the darsana of Bhagavan with one's eyes. Srila Sanatana Gosvami has thoroughly refuted these claims of the prakrta-sahajiyas in his book named Brhad Bhagavatamrta, as well as in his commentary of Sri Damodarastaka named Dig-Darsini

Manasa-darsana O Pratyaksa-darsana
Vision of the Lord in the Mind
Vision of the Lord with the Eyes

In regard to these topics, it is necessary to seriously study Sanatana Gosvami's commentaries to the fourth and sixth verses of Damodarastaka. Upon reviewing his discernment of these two verses, the prakrta-sahajiyas think that Gosvamipada is primarily describing darsana with the eyes which is dependent on manasa-dhyana-darsana (seeing Him within the mind's meditation). But the specific aim of the discussion is this - (in Brhad Bhagavatamrta) Gosvamipada eventually does establish the superiority of Gopa-Kumara's darsana with the eyes, which is dependent on the darsana that arises from meditation on brahma. In this, Gosvamipada does not verify Gopa-Kumara's darsana with the material eyes. It is described that only after Gopa-Kumara became situated in the transcendental planets of the spiritual world (Vaikuntha), did he have the Lord's darsana with his eyes. The material senses cannot have any position in the transcendental realm of Vaikuntha. Therefore the direct perception of proximity to the Lord felt by the gopas and gopis is in all ways aprakrta (transcendental) and atindriya (beyond the range of the senses). Beholding Him is not an affair that is directly perceivable by the mundane senses of the prakrta-sahajiyas.

The Observance of Karttika-vrata

Previously I have mentioned that Sri Sri Damodarastaka is to be sung and studied during the observance of Urjja-vrata, also called Karttika-vrata or Damodara-vrata. Those who desire to please Lord Damodara during the month of Damodara must certainly read this Damodarastaka book every day in its entirety. This is the specific recommendation of Sri Hari-bhakti-vilasa. The different ways of observing the Damodara-vrata are indicated in the sastras. The Urjja-vrata comes in the middle of Catur-masya-vrata. This period begins from either the ekadasi, the dvadasi or the purnima (full moon), and ends on the corresponding ekadasi, dvadasi or purnima. But these dates should not be observed if they touch (overlap after sunrise) in any way. Sanatana Gosvami says - if the dates (tithi) of a Vaisnava-vrata do not touch each other, then they are observed. Therefore on the days of the commencement and conclusion of Caturmasya-vrata and Urjja-vrata, one should observe the tithis only if they do not overlap each other. The definitive opinion of Hari-bhakti-vilasa is that the tithis should not touch after sunrise to begin the Caturmasya-vrata and the Urjja-vrata.

I would like to quote from a small article written by our Srila Thakura Bhaktivinoda on the topic of Karttika-vrata. In this article, he has clearly ascertained the days on which the conclusion of the vrata is observed. The rule is - devotees who begin their vrata on the ekadasi day also conclude it on the last ekadasi. Similarly, those who begin on the dvadasi or the purnima also end on their corresponding days. Bhaktivinoda's article states:

The observance of the Karttika-vrata is one of the most important things for the Vaisnavas.

In accordance with these words, the vrata therefore begins on the waxing ekadasi that comes the day after Vijaya-dasami in the month of Asvina. And the vrata will be concluded on Utthana-ekadasi. That vrata which is observed during the month between these two dates is called niyama-seva. The rules of niyama-seva are: every day during this month, one must rise upon the last hour of the night, purify oneself and perform the mangala-arati of Sri Krsna. Then, after bathing in the morning, one should worship Lord Damodara. At night, one should light brilliant lamps filled with either ghee or sesame-seed oil, and place them in these places - in the Lord's temple, around the base of tulasi plants, and in the sky. During the month of Karttika, one should eat only vegetarian foodstuffs and Bhagavan's prasad remnants. One should renounce excessive eating and sleeping, plus avoid using oil, wine, and bell-metal utensils. After honouring prasad, one should hear or recite scriptures headed by Srimad Bhagavatam in the company of Vaisnavas. There should be incessant harinama-kirtana and smarana. Thus passing the entire month in observance of such regulations, on the final Utthana-ekadasi day one should fast from everything including water and stay awake all night absorbed in Krsna-katha. On the next day, after first purifying oneself and engaging in hari-kirtana, one should serve the Lord's prasad to one's dearmost intimate Vaisnava associates, and when they are finished one may then honour prasad. That day, at the end of the night, the vrata will be completed.

The chief aim of observing this Urjja-vrata is to please Sri Radha-Damodara. Srimati Radharani is called Urjjesvari (the Queen of the Urjja-vrata). Only because of this, in order to establish the pleasure of Sri Sri Radha-Damodara, the sage Satyavrata Muni uttered (in the eight verse of Damodarastaka) the words namo radhikayai tvadiya priyayai - "My obeisances unto Radhika, You most beloved." By this statement, he indicated that the sole activity to be done during the observance of Damodara-vrata is the worship of Sri Sri Radha-Damodara.

Among the 64 branches of bhakti followed by our Gaudiya Vaisnavas, we see that the observance of Urjja is listed. It is to be understood that one follows the Catur-masya-vrata completely only if one honours Urjja during it. Some devotees are of the opinion - "Because Catur-masya-vrata is not listed among the 64 branches of devotion, we will only follow the (one-month long) vow of Urjja; we will not undergo the difficulty of observing the entire four-month-long vow." In this way, those persons who attempt performing bhajana, but who are unaware of the deep meaning of the sastras, thereby remain in the indulgences of in discipline. Sriman Mahaprabhu Himself observed the Catur-masya-vrata while situated in many different places, and has thereby taught the practice by His own example. We cannot consider such persons, who are unable to follow the instructions that were enacted and preached by Mahaprabhu, to be part of the lineage of pure Vaisnavas.

At this point, we would like to mention that the principle of atma-nivedana is listed as one of the nine types of devotion (which are counted among the six types of surrender, saranagati). Is it understood, then, that by performing atma-nivedana (offering one's soul), the other five types of surrender are therefore unnecessary? The ultimate surrender among the six processes of saranagati is atma-nivedana - by this being listed as such, it is understood that engaging in the other forms of surrender are also recommended for the sadhaka. Thus it is accepted that a single sadhana takes the form of several different aspects.

Due to the eternal nature of Sri Sri Damodarastaka, it is necessary to study it every day not only during the month of Karttika (or Damodara), but also during the entire four-month period of Catur-masya. And what's more, it is actually fit to be studied every day of every month, year after year. Upon the pure chanting of Damodarastaka, Lord Damodara Himself becomes very pleased - for this objective, I have especially compiled this volume with great care and attention.

During the period when Gosvamipada was composing his tika, he quoted some conclusions already written in his own Brhad Bhagavatamrta. We have added these verses in the form of footnotes. They are printed with their mula-slokas along with explicit Bengali translations to facilitate the understanding of the readers.

In conclusion, it is my earnest prayer before the suddha-vaisnavas: that they study this book during Catur-masya or Urjja-vrata and attain priti (the pleasure of the Lord) - then only will I consider my labour fulfilled. This book makes it possible for them to easily gather so many truths; for that reason, I have made such a humble request.

Sri Bhakti Prajnana Kesava


The Sri Damodarastakam of Satyavrata Muni

Verse 1

namamisvaram sac-cid-ananda-rupam
lasat-kundalam gokule bhrajamanam
paramrstam atyantato drutya gopya


"I bow down to the supreme controller, Sri Damodara, whose form is the embodiment of eternity, knowledge, and bliss. His glistening earrings swing playfully to and fro upon His cheeks. He manifests super-excellent pastimes in Gokula, by stealing fresh butter suspended from the rafters of the gopi's storerooms. In fear of Mother Yasoda, He jumps down from a wooden grinding mortar and quickly runs away. She runs swiftly after Him and finally catches Him from behind."

Verse 2

rudantam muhur netra-yugmam mrjantam
karambhoja-yugmena satanka-netram
muhuh svasa-kampa-tri-rekhanka-kantha-
sthita-graivam damodaram bhakti-baddham


"He cries and rubs His eyes again and again with His two lotus hands. His eyes are fearful and His breathing quick. As Mother Yasoda binds His belly with ropes, He shivers in fright and the pearl necklace shakes upon His neck, which is marked with three lines like a conch shell. To the Supremem Lord, Sri Damodara, whose belly is bound by His mother's pure love, not by rope, I offer my humble obeisances."

Verse 3

itidrk-sva-lilabhir ananda-kunde
sva-ghosam nimajjantam akhyapayantam
tadiyesita-jnesu bhaktair jitatvam
punah prematas tam satavrtti vande


"O my Lord, by Your own childhood pastimes, You continually immerse the residents of Gokula in pools of ecstasy. You reveal to those who are attracted to Your majesty and opulence, that You are only conquered by the love of Your pure devotees. Again I offer my obeisances with love and devotion hundreds and hundreds of times."

Verse 4

varam deva moksam na moksavadhim va
na canyam vrne 'ham varesasd apiha
idam te vapur natha gopala-balam
sada me manasy avirastam kim anyaih


"O Lord Damodara, although You are able to give all kinds of benedictions, I do not pray to You for liberation, nor the supreme goal of eternal life in Vaikuntha, nor for any other boon. My only desire, O Lord, is that Your form as Bala Gopala in Vrindavana may constantly remain in my heart. I have no use for any other boon besides this."

Verse 5

idam te mukhambhojam atyanta-nilair-
vrtam kuntalaih snigdha-raktais ca gopya
muhus cumbitam bimba-raktadharam me
manasy avirastam alam laksa-labhaih


"Your supremely enchanting face, encircled by shining locks of dark blue curling hair, resembles the fully blossomed lotus, tinged with a reddish luster, due to being kissed again and again by Mother Yasoda. May this vision of Your lotus face, with lips are red as bimba fruit, remain forever in my heart. Millions of other benedictions are of no benefit to me."

Verse 6

namo deva damodarananta visno
prasida prabho duhkha-jalabdhi-magnam
krpa-drsti-vrstyati-dinam batanu-
grhanesa mam ajnam edhy aksi-drsyah


"O Damodara! O Lord of divine beauty and unlimited mercy! O all pervading Visnu! I offer my obeisances unto You. May You be pleased with me. I am drowning in an ocean of sorrow and feeling almost dead. Shower Your nectar laden glances upon me, thereby uplifting me and enthusing me with life. Please accept me, O Lord, and become visible before my eyes."

Verse 7

kuveratmajau baddha-murtyaiva yad-vat
tvaya mocitau bhakti-bhajau krtau ca
tatha prema-bhaktim svakam me prayaccha
na mokse graho me 'sti damodareha


"O Lord Damodara, although Mother Yasoda bound Your divine form to a wooden grinding mortar, You mercifully delivered the sons of Kuvera, Manigriva and Nalakuvara, who were cursed to stand as trees, and You gave them the gift of devotional service. Please bless me in this same way with Your most wonderful prema-bhakti. I have no eagerness for any other type of liberation."

Verse 8

names te 'stu damne sphurad dipti-dhamne
tvadiyodarayatha visvasya dhamne
namo radhikayai tvadiya priyayai
namo 'nanta-lilaya devaya tubhyam


"O Lord, I offer respectful obeisances unto Your belly, the abode of the entire universe, which is bound by Mother Yasoda with a brilliantly effulgent rope. To this rope I offer my humble obeisances. I offer repeated obeisances to Your dearmost beloved Srimati Radharani, and I bow before You, who are performing unlimited super-excellent pastimes."